Make it snappy: Thai company expanding crocodile blood supplement for sports after trial findings
Sold under the brand ModaPlas, the crocodile blood capsule is a dietary supplement developed and manufactured by Thai firm Sriracha Moda Co. Ltd.
The product, registered as an iron supplement with the Thai FDA in 2009, has been sold in the Thai market for over a decade.
Recently, researchers at the Mahidol University conducted an 18-day human clinical trial on the effects of crocodile blood supplementation on delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Writing in Nutrients, they said that the supplementation of one gram of crocodile blood capsules per day could help to maintain peak muscle force or DOMS as compared to the placebo after eccentric exercise, such as descending stair walking, sitting down into a chair slowly, or lowering an object slowly.
Biochemical analysis also showed evidence that the dosage is safe for human consumption.
Sixteen young men completed the matched-subject-designed study, where they were randomly recruited using a double-blind, placebo-controlled parallel-groups, fixed-dose design.
Before starting on eccentric exercise, they had to take either four capsules each containing 250mg of crocodile blood powder or placebo daily after breakfast and dinner.
On day 15 of the trial, they performed eccentric exercise, and measurements on their visual analogue pain (VAS), range of knee motion (ROM), thigh circumference, maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) etc were taken.
Crocodile blood supplementation showed a preventative effect on markers of muscle damage, including MVIC and thigh circumference as compared to the placebo after eccentric exercise.
“In the CB (crocodile blood) group, thigh circumference decreased only immediately after eccentric exercise, indicating that CB helped reduce muscle swelling at that specific time.
“On the other hand, thigh circumference increased in the PL (placebo) group 24 h after eccentric exercise compared to its measure before eccentric exercise, indicating increase muscle swelling.
“Therefore, the results indicated that CB supplementation aids in reducing muscle swelling immediately after eccentric exercise,” the researchers, led by Dr Chirawat Paratthakonkun said.
However, the supplementation showed no interaction effect in other areas, such as MVC, VAS, ROM, IL-6, TNF-α, LDH, and CK.
The research was supported by Mahidol University.
Existing scientific findings
Speaking to NutraIngredients-Asia, Yosapong Temsiripong, managing director at Sriracha Moda, said the research was the first human clinical study conducted on the company’s crocodile blood supplement.
However, there have been 100 preclinical studies conducted on the crocodile blood which comes from the Crocodylus siamensis species.
“We were one of the first to study the antimicrobial properties on the crocodile blood since 2000. And some of the Australian and the US researchers also studied alongside us,” said Yosapong, who also has a master’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida.
Sold as an iron supplement, the product is mostly purchased by individuals suffering from anaemia, while consumers with asthma, diabetes, and cancer patients on chemotherapy are also among the customer base.
A study by Chaeychomsri et al showed that the company’s crocodile blood supplement contains 83.1 per cent of proteins, while the remaining is made up of essential vitamin and minerals, especially iron.
The conference paper, titled “Successful Development and Commercialization of Freeze-Dried Crocodile Blood Product”, was presented during the 39th Congress on Science and Technology of Thailand in 2013.
“Our product has high IGF-1 hormone that can promote the production of insulin, that's why diabetes people also believe that taking crocodile blood can reduce blood sugar,” Yosapong said.
A preclinical study published in Oncology Reports in 2016 by Ou et al found that crocodile blood extract could induce the death of lung cancer cells through PTEN, a multi-functional tumour suppressor.
Another study by Pata et al and published in Development and Comparative Immunology in 2011, also provided an analysis of the novel antibacterial peptide Leucrocin found in Siamese crocodiles’ white blood cell extracts.
Expanding the market
With the new clinical findings, Yosapong hopes to position the crocodile blood supplement as a product positioned for sports and also the general healthy population.
This is the first clinical study in humans, targeting the athletes and sportsmen. It's a different kind of population to our existing consumers.
The study is not focusing on patients but on healthy individuals. And so, we hope to expand the market to include healthy individuals as well.
We are looking for Thai sports celebrities to be our brand ambassador to do the marketing for the crocodile blood as a food supplement for improving sports performance.
There are also plans to conduct further human studies with a longer study duration and also to include female athletes in the study.
To date, Yosapong said the company has sold one million bottles of the crocodile blood supplements. Each bottle contains 100 capsules.
Ninety per cent of the sales have been coming from Thailand, while the remaining is made up by Hong Kong, Taiwan, Russia, and China – which receives the product via Hong Kong, since wildlife imports are banned in China.
In Thailand, the products are sold online and also via the D-chain pharmacies, other international consumers are buying the product online.
In fact, orders from Russia have been increasing from 10 to 50 bottles three years ago to 200 bottles per month today.
The success seen is a contrast to a decade ago, when the product was met with many doubts from the consumers.
When we first began the marketing of the product, we came across many problems [such as people thinking the] crocodile blood will be in the liquid form, or it doesn't have any good sensory [attributes], and questions about where we sourced the blood from.
There were so many questions that we had to answer. But after some of them benefitted from the product, it was through the word of mouth that sales started to take off.
It is getting more well-known and it has been the talk of the town many times. Whenever we have new [scientific] publications, the sales team will be given new brochures and sales kits, so that they can convey the findings to the customers directly at the drugstore.
He stressed that the production process was the most important to ensure product safety.
First, after draining the crocodile blood, the blood will be sent for pasteurisation for 30 minutes at 60 degrees Celsius using a patented technique.
After which, the blood will go through a thermal shock process to quickly freeze the blood at minus 70 degrees and also to kill the germs.
At this stage, the blood can be stored in the freezer for even up to a year.
When needed for production, the frozen crocodile blood will be retrieved for freeze drying to make it into powder capsule.
How did it all begin?
The idea of exploring crocodile blood’s functional uses first started when the company was thinking of ways to upcycle waste by-products when making crocodile leather products.
In its early days, the company engaged local Thai researchers to study the bioactives and the potential use of crocodile blood in traditional Chinese medicine, before moving into the dietary supplement route.
Other than crocodile blood, the company has also upcycled crocodile bone/cartilage into a collagen supplement, while crocodile meat is sold off to Hong Kong as food.
Today, the company operates a full scale one-stop service business when it farms about 20,000 crocodiles in a farm that it owns in South East of Bangkok, it also operates a slaughterhouse and manufacturing facility.
It also buys crocodiles from about 300 crocodile farm owners around the country.
To prevent the crocodiles from fighting, each crocodile is farmed in an individual cage.
After rearing them for three years, the crocodiles which would grow to about 1.8 metres by then, would be ready for slaughter.
As part of its effort in wildlife conservation, Yosapong, who was influenced by his father who used to operate several animal farms, including the rearing of crocodiles, ostriches, and pigs, said the company would also release three per cent of the crocodiles that it had reared into the wild.
“We do not catch crocodiles from the wild…But we have to increase the wild crocodile population; this is like a corporate social responsibility for us. If the wild crocodile population is in danger, people tend to avoid buying our products. But if there are plenty of crocodiles in the wild, people are willing to buy crocodile products more.”